Paris and Beyond

Our Personal Tour de France & Other Exciting Adventures!

Archive for the month “August, 2016”

Back in the Saddle Again

It’s time to get back in the saddle again and return to work. After all I have been through this summer, I’m hoping I’ll be up to it.

Every year the administration chooses a theme. Just before school begins, we receive a cleverly designed invitation, ticket, or other item along with a thematically written letter describing the details of the days to come as we gather together again to prepare for our students. Admittedly, some themes play out better than others. Though this may sound like fun, I’m not necessarily a big fan of this approach. I have often been accused of being too serious so perhaps that’s my problem. It’s really difficult to play along when the theme is one that you’re not very excited about like sports which I don’t follow at all. One more reference to the Golden State Warriors or Stephen Curry and I was about ready to scream last year. My apologies sports fans, but it’s just not me. This year, however, it seems I’m getting my redemption.

Cue the Mission: Impossible theme song and picture Peter Graves, Greg Morris, and Martin Landau, or Tom Cruise if you must, getting ready for their next assignment. The inspiration for this year’s theme is our school’s new mission statement*. So we’re all set to launch “Mission: Possible” with a year full of education analogies based on my absolute favorite genre — mystery, espionage, and intrigue. Now THAT’S a theme I can get behind! You know how it starts… “Your mission should you choose to accept it…” But, in our case, it becomes “Your mission… Which we know you’ll choose to accept”. That seems fair since Jim Phelps and his team always accepted their missions and, of course, they always succeeded despite a few challenges along the way — extremely appropriate as teaching goes. It appears that it will definitely be an exciting year.

As I head out tomorrow to meet up with the rest of the agents on my team, I’m looking forward to embarking on my last mission ever. Wish me luck!

*Our Mission: To inspire and empower all students to be curious and resilient problem solvers, compassionate and constructive contributors, and lifelong learners during their individual and collective journey of academic and personal growth.


Merci Beaucoup!!

BC SailboatMost of my life has been smooth sailing. Except for having to move almost every year all through elementary school and make new friends which was really difficult for an introvert like me, my first 18 years were pretty much bliss. I went to school which I loved, did my homework, got good grades, and my mom did everything else while my dad worked 12-hour days. Yes, I was spoiled. However, my mom passed on some valuable lessons which have served me well. She taught me to be tough, learn to live with difficult situations, and not complain or cry about things. One of her favorite expressions was “This too shall pass”. It drove me crazy when I was young, but I have experienced the truth of it many times as an adult.


My mom, Laury

There are bound to be some choppy seas in your life. For me they have been things like going back to work after 6 weeks following both of my C-sections, divorce, and two major surgeries to name just a few. Sometimes you encounter gale force winds and even hurricanes. Such was the case at the beginning of this summer. Fortunately by now things have settled into a rather moderate breeze. However, I would never have been able to navigate the rough waters without the help, care, and concern of so many people.

First and foremost is my wonderful husband, Norman. Until just recently, he has had to do absolutely everything for us the entire summer. He has done it all without complaint making me feel comfortable and safe at all times… making sure I got the care I needed. It hasn’t been easy. Over the past 22 years, he has guided me through many storms. He has been the captain of our ship and I have been his first mate. He has always managed to keep our morale up and help me stay in good spirits despite the difficulty or uncertainty of the situation. I never could have survived any of it without him.


Norman Sailing

Our son, Lorenzo, made his first trip to Europe this summer. The original plan was for him to spend several days with us in France. We were really excited about having the opportunity to share with him the France we love. However, we had to return home before he even arrived. In the end, he probably had more fun without us adding Barcelona to his London and Paris itinerary with the change of plans. Throughout his overly busy Apple work life and his exciting European adventure, he has made a point of checking in with me to see how I’m doing. That has meant the world to me.

Lorenzo & mom

Our son, Lorenzo

We have also been fortunate to have some British friends in France we met while staying in their gîtes on previous trips who helped us chart our course. They offered assistance and advice, checked in with us from time to time, visited, and made us feel a little less lost at sea so far away from home.


Philippa & Paul


John & Penny

Then there’s the wonderful Pérez crew — all nine siblings plus their spouses, nieces and nephews — many of whom have sent e-mails and get well cards, telephoned, and just generally stayed in touch the whole time to find out how I’m doing. It has been so uplifting to have that kind of support.

Siblings With Spouses

La Familia Pérez

My side of the family is rather small, but I have had a dedicated crew in them as well. They have made a point of checking in on a regular basis and it has been very much appreciated.


Cousins, Leslie, Cathy & Robin


Cousin, Danielle

I am fortunate to count among my friends many very special shipmates who followed my progress, helped me conquer my fears of some of the big waves, and encouraged me to stay onboard.

Berenice & me 5

Berenice, Surrogate Daughter #1


Kim, Surrogate Daughter #2


Susan, Friend & Meditation Mentor

Donna & me

Donna, BFF

Norma & me

Norma, Long-time Friend from High School

For now, I’m happy to report that we seem to be heading back on course and looking forward to more smooth sailing very soon. I’m hoping to stay on an even keel for this last year teaching. I cannot thank everyone enough for all the little things you have done to make this journey more bearable. You float my boat!

Don’t Call Us…


My room was peachy!

The main goal of our trips to France along with all the reading and studying we have been doing is to make sure we are very familiar with life in France and, as much as possible, the French language. The idea is that, if we decide to move there permanently, we will really know what to expect and limit the inevitable culture shock. Through our travels we have been able to explore many facets of daily French life. We have experienced shopping at traditional farmers’ markets, local shops, and big box stores like Auchan. Norman has had a lot of practice driving on all kinds of country roads and city streets and negotiating those incessant roundabouts. Staying in gîtes and vacation homes instead of hotels for extended periods, we have lived more or less like you would if you owned your own home there — cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. But there’s one important thing you can’t intentionally explore and that’s French healthcare. It’s not like you could just show up at a French hospital and ask if you could be admitted for a couple of days so you can check it out. So, if there’s one redeeming quality to our most recent experience, it’s that we got to find out what it’s like to see a doctor and go to a hospital in France. Here’s our very personal take…

It’s much less expensive. Studies show that the average cost of a visit to a primary care doctor in the U.S. is around $160 as opposed to the regulated price of €23 ($25) in France. In California where we live, the average cost of a hospital stay is $2800 a day. While in France, I had two doctor visits, spent five days in the hospital, and had several tests and procedures for a total of $2600. The hospital room itself was just $20 a day. Amazing!

Everyone has insurance. For most of my career, my employer’s insurance has covered my entire family and I have paid little to nothing for healthcare. I have been lucky in that regard because this is not the case for many Americans. My current employer only covers the employee so we have to pay $750 monthly for my husband’s coverage. In France, healthcare is extended to every citizen or resident. It covers about 80% of all costs. You can pay the balance or purchase a very low cost supplemental plan to cover the rest.

The focus is on solutions. One of the things we noticed in France was that the approach to care was very different. The French doctors seemed to be very focused on finding a solution to the problem. It’s possible that being unencumbered by insurance companies and exorbitant costs, they have much more liberty to pursue a solution or perhaps it’s just how they have been trained. American doctors seem more focused on relieving symptoms and you don’t always get answers as to the cause of your problem.

Hospital stays are common. French doctors will admit you to the hospital for very basic procedures that would be done as an outpatient in the U.S. and keep you there as long as necessary even though you might otherwise be healthy and able to take care of yourself. I was actually allowed to go home for a day during one of my stays, but my room was reserved for me and I just walked back in the next day. Had I stayed in France to complete my care, I’m sure I would have been in the hospital much longer. On the contrary, a patient is never admitted to a hospital in the U.S. unless absolutely necessary.

The doctor is the boss. French doctors are totally in charge of every aspect of your care. They make all the decisions without consulting the patient. They are the experts and the patient is expected to follow along with whatever they recommend which they seem to always claim is “easy” no matter the procedure — endoscopy without anesthesia, MRI for the severely claustrophobic, etc. I’ve deemed this the “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” approach. At times, I waited for hours in the hospital without seeing the doctor or knowing what was going to happen next. American doctors work with the patient from the onset. They ask many questions, make recommendations, provide options, and then ask how you want to proceed. By the same token, you can make suggestions and requests. When you have a medical issue, it becomes a mutual effort in finding a cure.

You need to speak French! Many assume that well-trained doctors and other medical professionals would very likely speak English. It’s true that many medical terms are very similar or almost the same in French as they are in English so there is a certain amount of mutual understanding. However, that doesn’t serve to help you express or understand the details of your health issue. When a doctor is asking you specific questions about previous treatment experiences or allergies before he puts you under, you’d better be able to understand and answer correctly. We only encountered one doctor, a young intern in emergency, who spoke fairly fluent English. With everyone else we were at the mercy of our limited skills in French. Throughout the Kaiser medical facilities we use there are signs offering to provide a translator for umpteen different languages if necessary. We saw none of that in France.

Our decision to return home was not out of concern for the cost or quality of my care. It was extremely affordable and the doctors were doing their very best, but things were getting complicated and we had no idea how long it might take to figure it all out. In addition, we felt we needed to be able to communicate more accurately. And, of course, there’s a lot to be said for recuperating in the comfort of familiar surroundings. Nevertheless, now we have a much better understanding of French healthcare and will be more prepared to deal with it if and when there is a next time.



imageIt’s just a number, right? That’s what we often say about age, but you have admit there are some important ones you can’t wait to turn… 16 so you can drive, 18 so you can vote, 21 so you can drink — legally, because you’ve been doing it for a while anyway. Early in your life, you are in such a hurry to reach these landmarks. Then we slow down a little and start marking the time in our lives by decades… 30 when I left a great job and many great friends in the Seattle area and moved back to California for what I thought would be a better life; 40 when I got divorced and eventually remarried a few years later and actually started a new and better life; 50 when I lost my dad and moved to San Jose (where he was born and raised) and started a new and even better teaching assignment. Then last year I had the best decade birthday ever spending the summer in France and celebrating 60 on a dinner cruise in Bordeaux.

At this point, I think you’re supposed to start counting significant birthdays by five’s because, well, you never know just how long you have. You don’t want to miss an excuse to have a stellar celebration. So this year, turning 61, I had what might be considered an “uneventful” birthday. I don’t think you’ll find a birthday card with “61” on it. However, I am a little spoiled. My husband always makes my birthday an event even if it is a small, intimate one which actually I prefer. I am much better at celebrating other people than being the center of attention myself at some grand event. And I am really grateful that I got to reach this landmark because, for a minute, I thought it might not come to pass.

For me getting older has had sort of a unique quality because I was always the baby on either side of the family minus one cousin who’s just a year younger. Early on I didn’t appreciate this because I was “too young” to do this, that, or the other that everyone else seemed to be doing. Today, of course, I’m in no hurry. In my mind I am still young which is not a bad self perspective. So, while 61 is just a number, just another year, I am happy to have had the opportunity to celebrate it.


Celebrating at our Special Table at our Favorite Restaurant


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